State Del. Pat McDonough told the Sun last week that he wasn't going to back down from claims made in a press release that 'black youth mobs terrorize" downtown Baltimore. And in his Saturday night radio show on WCBM (AM-680), he not only made good on that pledge, he ratcheted up the rhetoric ripping Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake while vowing to bring the issue of downtown public safety to the front burner of public consciousness with a "news conference" Tuesday -- and other actions to follow.
He certainly did not sound like a man about to apologize for what one of his legislative colleagues characterized as "race baiting." Beyond the political and public safety issues involved, McDonough's on-air efforts Saturday make this a media story that raises important questions about role media play in how a community talks about race -- and whether the media in Baltimore have been facilitating or failing in that crucial conversation. One minister has already called for McDonough to be pulled from the airwaves.
"Some people say I should apologize," McDonough said near the start if his two-hour weekly show Saturday night. "My parents brought me up and taught me one thing: You never aplogize for the truth... I'm not going to apologize. I'll tell you who needs to apologize: the mayor and the politicians who allowed this to happen -- they need to apologize. They not only need to apologize, they need to fix it."
McDonough had no shortage of supportive callers during his show on Preakness night.
"I'm going to tell you where I'm coming from," he told one of them. "They think I'm some Republican milquetoast who's gonna roll up under the sofa and say I apologize. Well, they've got the wrong guy, OK? I'm not going away, and I have some strategies in the future. We're coming at them. We're gonna call them out, and we're gonna find out where this goes."
He described his press release and subsequent actions as a "911 call from Delegate Pat McDonough to the general public about what is happening, and trying to wake up this mayor" on the issue of public safety in Baltimore. He compared the mayor to an arsonist at one point and said he considerd it "criminal" that she has allegedly not fully informed citizens of public safety issues at the Inner Harbor.
"I want to tell you, it's a very simple matter," he continued. "Either Baltimore city overcomes crime, or crime will overcome Baltimore city -- and the city will no longer be livable at all. And it's very close to that situation in a lot of ways. This is not just a black issue. Yes, the gangs down there, the mobs, are black. I know we have knuckleheads and criminals that are white, but I'm trying to focus on this issue..."
He explained his use of racial designation by saying, "The first rule of all crime enforcement is when you witness a crime, you must describe it accurately. The description must be accurate and complete. Now, I'm witnessing a crime. This is not racial profiling, this is criminal profiling, If it were all white or skinheads or whatever, that is the way it would be described."
In Saturday night's show, McDonough said that he and his wife were in their car at a stoplight downtown "two Wednesdays ago at 9 in the evening" when it seemed as if their auto was about to be surrounded by "100 people who were 50 feet from us." He said they "ran the red light" to escape the situation, and sarcastically suggested to a caller that he will probably get a ticket (via surviellance camera) for running the light, while the youths go free.
The caller had identified himself as a police officer who supported what McDonough was saying.
"What is the real problem? What are we trying to do here?" McDonough asked late in the show. "We're trying to work with the people of the community, both black and white, to come together and stand up against the politicians and the so-called leaders who are basically liberal, in some cases radical, and they do not believe in public safety. They do not believe in cracking down on crime and criminals, and in the case of this mayor, she's engaging in what appears to be a cover-up policy. And the results are clear."
Citing a story reported online at the Sun Friday of a white youth being attacked downtown by two groups of black teens, McDonough said, "So, ever since my first press release on Wednesday, we've now had several incidents at the Harbor. And now, we have the Preakness today -- thousands and thousands of tourists, of course, and many are going to venture to the Harbor this evening or ortomorrow morning, and they have no clue whatsoever what's going. Well, will there be a headline? I pray not."
The show returned from one commercial break with Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" playing.
"There you go," McDonough said. "And we're not going to back down."